Saturday, August 07, 2021


 * Daniel R. Siakel, Hume's Appendix Problem and Associative Connections in the Treatise and Enquiry (PDF)

* Alexander Englert, How a Kantian Ideal Can Be Practical (PDF)

* Nick Huntington-Klein, The Effect: An Introduction to Research Design and Causality, a very nice online book.

* Hamid Taieb, Acts of the State and Representation in Edith Stein (PDF)

* Megan Halteman Zwart, Forget philosopher kings. We need philosopher folks,  a rare case of an America article that I largely agree with.

* Candice Malcolm, Six things the media got wrong about the graves found near residential schools. Canadian journalists have always been notoriously bad when it comes to reporting on matters concerned with the Catholic Church, but they seem to have outdone themselves this time around. The entire program of residential schools, as conceived under the policies of the Canadian government, was in many ways very bad, but there is no excuse for lack of journalistic diligence and care in reporting on it.

* Deborah Casewell, A just and loving gaze, and Becca Rothfeld, Principled to a Fault, discuss Simone Weil, who seems to be having a minor revival at the moment.

* Ryan Burge, The curious case of born-again Catholics. I'd be interested in seeing how these numbers are distributed across converts and cradles; while I wouldn't usually use the label, I myself would have no problem with it at all. I grew up evangelical Southern Baptist; I don't consider my Catholicism to be a fundamental change, as opposed to a completion. If comfort with the label is linked to conversion (perhaps spreading a bit among communities with lots of converts), it would perhaps explain most of the peculiarities -- its widespread and very diverse character, the political divergence (which might be due to not being Catholic partly for ethnic reasons), the greater tendency to attend church. But I don't know.

* Lee Trepanier, Scholasticism confronts illiberalism, on Jacques Maritain

* Rachel Aviv, The German experiment that placed foster children with pedophiles. It's very easy to forget just how much influence pro-pedophilia movements built up in the sixties and seventies.

* Jorge J. E. Gracia, Racisms: Racial, Ethnic, and National (DOC). Gracia, who recently died and was one of my favorite philosophical authors in graduate school, did a lot of excellent work on medieval philosophy, metaphysics, and philosophy of race.

* Colorized Math Equations.

* Ryan Miller, Thomistic Foundations for Moderate Realism about Mathematical Objects (PDF)

Friday, August 06, 2021

Dashed Off XVII

 naive acceptance -> reaction and criticism -> rational conviction
-- the same ideas have different aspects in these three different atmospheres

Reasons concern the man who believes already as well as the man coming to believe.

interpretant as grasp on sign, sign-registering

Chance as well as proper causation are in the divine cause eminenter.

Love by its nature classifies, that things may be loved well.

Understanding is represented in decompression as well as compression of information.

"Any proposition whatever concerning the order of Nature must touch more or less upon religion." Peirce

Testing presupposes classification. (cp Peirce)

Everything pride touches, it destroys and replaces.

potential-to-be-bounded as a prerequisite for experimental phenomena

the experimentable

To have an experiment, you need a manipulable boundable changeable.

seven individual notes forma, figura, locus, tempus, stirps, patria, nomen

subsemiotic communication

divine title of creation, divine title of long possession, divine title of current possession, divine title of covenant
--divine title to sovereignty does not require conquest but unconquerable possession should perhaps be included
-- the Incarnation makes possible a divine title of succession that would otherwise no be possible

Much propaganda is concerned not with persuading but with overwhelming.

restaurant ambiences: bistroesque, cafe-like, formal, fast service, dive-ish, publike, cafeteria-like, picnic-like
-- ambience as an architecture of experienceables

the patience of just rule

the 'vegetative' processes of the Church: conversion, natural increase, ordinary tradition
the 'animative' processes of the Church: general prayer, charitable works
the 'rational' processes of the Church: preaching/proclamation, sacramental union

kinds of messaging: proclamation, representation, exemplification, evocation, vicinity


usury + promiscuous wage contract practices + general living by credit + entertainment-style advertising
non-usurious lending practices + just wage contract practices + generalized ownership of means of production + communal sponsorship

end : major premise :: means : minor premise

Denying the distinction between killing and letting die seems to require assuming that 'doing' is always univocal.

starting points: experience, [testimony, sign], concept, prior arguments
means of extension: combination (of starting points), analogy, implication
scaffolding: literal calculi, diagrams, illustrations & examples

A true liberation theology would have to put virtue at its center, with the politics and economics subservient to this; there is no genuine liberation except that which involves virtue, that supports virtue, that reaches up to God through virtue.

Christ sends a sword (Mt 10:34), but the sword does not exist for its own sake; it is the dividing of those who confess Christ and those who do not.

ptochos, the poor, means the beggarly (literally or figuratively); the root idea is laid-low-ness, prostrateness, thus reduced or cast down to begging
-- Lk 4:18, 7:22 give the guide for understanding; cf. also Lk 14:13, Rv 3:17

the Church as the sacrament of history (Gutierrez)

human tradition as the extension of the self-traditionary being of human existence

Being is the all-touching concept; all others resolve into it in some way; but this must not be confused with bare indeterminacy.

civil appropriations of humanitarian traditions

notebooks as fragment-encyclopedias

Conscience is essential to the nature of a home.

The home is one of the venues in which we stand as responsible beings.

A family is traditionary, by nature, handing itself down to itself.

the [public interest - underdog victim - nonviolent means] pattern of activism

'wokism' as anti-dialectical idealism

Formal interrogations are always designed more to express authority than to elicit information.

Human tradition cannot be understood in a way abstracted from ethics; responsibility and conscience are contributing factors that structure it. It is not a method but an interpersonal relationship.

The wrong of racism lies in its corruption of civic friendship.

situs : intrinsic :: habitus : extrinsic
(cp. Barnes's 'self-having' and 'self-having with otherwhat')

the good as that by which one can recognize the connection between being and the true

A very large amount of philosophical work consists of fine-tuning vocabulary in order to capture what is really meant.

Fighting error requires an appropriate infrastructure.

Any stable ethics implies a stable human nature.

"The members of mankind share the same basic rights and duties, as well as the same supernatural destiny. Within a country which belongs to each one, all should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, and benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches." Paul VI

Mobs and tyrants both work in arbitrary ways precisely so as to be arbitrary, to show that they can.

the checklist as a fundamental technology

stage magic as attention-focus management

Karma is a naturally aristocratic way of thinking about morality.

Your righteousness is never as righteous as it feels.

the honest mistake as a central concept for justice

World-building is an inherently fragmentary expression of imagination.

logical systems as constructed by parity and a fortiori

There is no such thing as hairsplitting or nitpicking except relative to an end.

Work with dignity requires a basic friendliness and a basic ceremonious or politeness; these are its two most basic safeguards, on which all others can be built.

the principle for things cognized with certainty through experience or by the senses ut nunc (Scotus): What frequently comes from something not free has that as its per se natural cause. / What in the majority of cases comes about by a cause that is not free is a natural effect of that cause.
-- in effect, one uses this by ruling out that the cause is free or chance.

"The uncreated light is the first principle in the domain of theoretical things and the ultimate goal in the domain of practical things." Scotus

There is a difference between resembling a part and partly resembling.

People cannot long endure a view of themselves as worthless, and will eventually in response either destroy themselves, or discover a way to reclaim their worth, or manufacture a defensive counterview.

the phenomenological analysis of 'perhaps'

reasoning to discover, reasoning to persuade, reasoning to impress
(these motivations are from most conducive to good reasoning to least)

carnivals as architectures of novelty

All history is tradition.

We begin our lives immersed in traditions

We participate in a tradition by having a future.

Distributive justice is primarily about honors and only secondarily about wealth; only with capitalism and communism is this prioritization reversed.

The distinction between polis/civitas and political alliance is that the former is directly concerned with encouraging goodness.

tradition : participation :: history : objective regard :: culture : immersion

Whether a right is genuine always depends on the ends of what the right is about and of the contexts in which it could be relevant.

Athenian democracy makes citizenship depend on slavery because it requires that citizens be freed from the menial so that they may devote themselves to the life of democratic deliberation, but the menial is nonetheless necessary. (Spartan oligarchy requires helotry for analogous reasons.)

The universal is
(1) predicable of singulars as they are
(2) not identifiable with singulars
(from both of these we can conclude that universals are not apart from singulars but are 'in' them)
(3) not formally universal in the singular

hypertrophies of reasoning
(1) diachronic totalizing (conspiracy theory)
(2) synchronic totalizing
(3) nihilizing

truthwardness principles (e.g., divine veracity in Cartesianism)

grievance-addressing vs opportunity-reducing approaches to reducing rights violations

real distinction of essence and existence & finitude of being

The division of being into act and potentiality is more fundamental than the division into substance and accident; this truth is the foundation of many things.

subcooperative consent
paracooperative consent
informed cooperative consent under formal contract guaranteeing reasonable protections and mutual benefit for all parties

three elements in an accident (as pertaining to substances)
(1) aptitudinal inherence (essence of accident)
(2) actual inherence
(3) inexistence

quality as the accident of determinacy
(1) in the nature of the thing: habit/disposition
(2) in the principle of action and passion: power/impotence
(3) in the term of alteration or motion: passivity/patible quality
(4) in quantity: form and figure

"False miracles can be discerned from true miracles by their efficacy, utility, mode, end, person, and occasion." Benedict XIV (De Beat. Serv. Dei 4.7 nn 14-22)

Culture grows out of sociability.

The distinction between real and fake is a distinction of ends.

On Men Reading

 M. A. Sieghart had an essay in the Guardian a while back on the question of why men read so few women authors; it makes a number of obvious mistakes, one of which is assuming that there is any particular reluctance among men to read women authors as such. There is actually no mystery at all as to why men read so few women authors; the whole of the answer consists in the fact that (1) men do not read much at all and (2) as a result, very few genres or authors are marketed to men at all.

Let's take a basic set of comparisons. The genre that has the greatest woman-dominated readership is romance. Something like 90% of the readership of romance novels is female, most men have never read a romance novel, the genre is marketed almost entirely to women, with only occasional feelers for things that will have broader appeal. It is consistently the best-selling genre, to such an extent that most bestseller lists deliberately exclude large portions of romance, because if they did not, almost all bestsellers on every list would be from the more explicitly erotic branches of the sprawling genre.  Romance is a billion-dollar industry. The genre that has the greatest man-dominated readership is Westerns, which is about 90% male. It is a tiny genre, the nichest of niches. It mostly survives because (1) it has a steady group of hardcore fans who read most of what is available and (2) it gets occasional minor boosts from the fact that the genre is easily adaptable to movie and television and its adaptations are sometimes moderately successful. If you are not the next Louis L'Amour (and you are not), you will never make a career writing Westerns.  If you market your books to men rather than to women, you necessarily have to take a long view, which Western authors do; you are trying to craft something that endures and lasts a long time rather than something that will explode in sales this year. The entire Western genre is smaller than the romance sub-genre of Western Romance. The genre with the widest appeal across the sexes is science fiction. Almost all men read science fiction occasionally; about 80% of men who read regularly at all read science fiction regularly. A minority of women readers regularly read science fiction, but almost all indicators suggest that this minority of women readers is a large enough group to balance out the majority of men readers, so that the genre readership is about fifty-fifty.

Women generally read. Men generally do not. Women generally read widely. Men who regularly read generally have narrow reading interests. Outside very specific situations, publishers market to women because they are the primary book-buyers. Given this, let's look at Sieghart's argument:

For the top 10 bestselling female authors (who include Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood, as well as Danielle Steel and Jojo Moyes), only 19% of their readers are men and 81%, women. But for the top 10 bestselling male authors (who include Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, as well as Lee Child and Stephen King), the split is much more even: 55% men and 45% women. 

In other words, women are prepared to read books by men, but many fewer men are prepared to read books by women. And the female author in the top 10 who had the biggest male readership – the thriller writer LJ Ross – uses her initials, so it’s possible the guys thought she was one of them. What does this tell us about how reluctant men are to accord equal authority – intellectual, artistic, cultural – to women and men?

Notice how this argument is structured. The percentage of readers of female authors is overwhelmingly women; the percentage of readers of male authors is more or less even; therefore "women are prepared to read books by men, but many fewer men are prepared to read books by women"; therefore this is relevant to men according to less authority to women. 'Bestselling' and 'read' are not necessarily the same thing, although bestselling tends to be more easily accessible, and thus increases your chances of being read, but if we set this aside, there are at least two points to make about this argument.  First, we know that the population of women reader dwarfs the population of men readers; thus we would expect the percentage of men readers of female authors to be considerably less than the percentage of women readers of female authors. The thing that is noticeable is that a lot of women read male authors, but not enough to overwhelm (as they very well could in most genres) male readers. The obvious interpretation of the numbers here is that women are considerably less likely to read male authors than they are to read female authors. A second point is connected to this. Several of the bestselling female authors are Romance novelists, and thus are bestselling novelists who write in a genre almost no men read and is rarely marketed to men. LJ Ross, the author Sieghart mentions as being the female author with the largest male readership, is one of the world's most popular writers of mysteries and thrillers, which would be in and of itself an adequate explanation of why she has a larger male readership than Danielle Steel or Jojo Moyes. Mysteries and thrillers are relatively large genres; they are perhaps the genres after science fiction that are most read by men in general.

Sieghart continues:

Margaret Atwood, a writer who should be on the bookshelves of anyone who cares about literary fiction, has a readership that is only 21% male. Male fellow Booker prize winners Julian Barnes and Yann Martel have nearly twice as many (39% and 40%). It’s not as if women are less good at writing literary fiction. All five of the top five bestselling literary novels in 2017 were by women, and nine of the top 10. And it’s not as if men don’t enjoy reading books by women when they do open them; in fact, they marginally prefer them. The average rating men give to books by women on Goodreads is 3.9 out of 5; for books by men, it’s 3.8.

Nobody cares about literary fiction, which is a fake genre for pretentious people. Margaret Atwood is read not because she writes literary fiction because she writes science fiction that is marketed specifically to people who don't usually read science fiction, and has managed to get a lock on that relatively difficult demographic without losing much science fiction readership. She is on the bestselling authors list because she is massively more likely to be read by women than most science fiction authors are; 21% male is about what you would expect. Male readership is not large enough to push the number much higher for any author extremely popular with women; if the percentage of men readers gets very much higher, it is because fewer women are reading that author rather than that more men are. Women are large enough a population of readers that they can guarantee that an author ends up on a list of bestselling authors; men as a group could just barely do so under optimal conditions. And, of course, Sieghart's point about Goodreads tells against the entire line of thought into which Sieghart is trying to distort the data: there is no evidence that men who read regularly treat women authors as less readable or deserving to be read than men authors.

This is not to say that there might not be minor preferences of men who regularly read for men authors, but if they do exist they are minor and being moralistic about them fails to take into account both genre differences and how large a portion of books by women authors are marketed specifically toward women.

Sieghart continues:

If men don’t read books by and about women, they will fail to understand our psyches and our lived experience. They will continue to see the world through an almost entirely male lens, with the male experience as the default. And this narrow focus will affect our relationships with them, as colleagues, as friends and as partners. But it also impoverishes female writers, whose work is seen as niche rather than mainstream if it is consumed mainly by other women. They will earn less respect, less status and less money.

This is obvious nonsense. There is no sense whatsoever in which Danielle Steel is impoverished by being primarily read by women. If money is your goal, getting an unusual number of male readers is icing on the cake, never the cake. Respect and status, to the extent that they are meaningful here, have less to do with sex and more to do with genre. You don't come to understand lived experience from books -- books are, by their very nature, articulated and not lived experience. There is no such thing as 'the male experience'. And, last but not least, men as a population are not big readers and so will not generally read books by and about women because they will not generally read books, so if your solution to getting men to understand women is to have them read, it is not a solution at all.

It's an interesting question why men are so unlikely to read, and I don't have much of an idea of what the primary reason for it would be. I do know, as an unusual case of a man who reads on a scale larger than most women, that men who read a lot are penalized in various minor ways -- none serious in themselves, but very identifiable. There was a minor stir on some social media platform (probably Twitter) a while back, in which some young lady, talking about dating, noted that she stopped dating men who claimed to read a lot. Her reasoning was that a man who claims to read more than occasional science fiction and nonfiction is almost certainly lying. Despite some protests, the majority of her female commenters agreed. And it's entirely reasonable; the statistics and psychology are with them. People often exaggerate their qualities in the context of dating; a common rookie mistake is to overemphasize your reading, to make yourself look cultured or intellectual or what not; the result is an implausibly large number of men making implausibly grandiose claims about their love of reading. Pick any random man out of the crowd, and it's just not likely at all that he reads much. If you are male reader and dating, your best bet is to hide or play down your reading, and let it come out slowly as a secret; there are only very few circumstances in which this is not the case.

It's probably also the case that women in general prefer to be the primary readers in a relationship. I can absolutely assure you that, if you are a man, women are often disconcerted at discovering that they read less than you do. It sometimes becomes a kind of competitive thing for them, or else they treat it the same as if you were showing off in an attempt to make them seem less. I don't know why this is, either, but, again, I can assure you it is true.

Nor is dating the only context in which this is the case, nor are women the only ones who make judgments of this sort. The number of people who, on learning how much I read, respond as if there were something at least slightly wrong with me has been quite large in my lifetime; by no means everyone, but nonetheless it's a common thing. One reason this weblog covers so much literature is that blogging is one of only a handful of contexts in which I can seriously talk about reading, despite its being one of the major components of my life. I have no idea whether this minor bias against male readers plays a role in so few men reading, but I wouldn't be surprised. But it's absurd, in any case, to ignore the fact, whatever reason there might be for it.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Transparent as a Lake of Hyaline

Beyond the Sunset
by Charles Heavysege 

Hushed in a calm beyond mine utterance,
See in the western sky the evening spread;
Suspended in its pale, serene expanse,
Like scattered flames, the glowing cloudlets red.
Clear are those clouds, and that pure sky's profound,
Transparent as a lake of hyaline;
Nor motion, nor the faintest breath of sound,
Disturbs the steadfast beauty of the scene.
Far o'er the vault the winnowed welkin wide,
From the bronzed east unto the whitened west,
Moored, seem, in their sweet, tranquil, roseate pride,
Those clouds the fabled islands of the blest;--
The lands where pious spirits breathe in joy,
And love and worship all their hours employ.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Two Poem Drafts

Summer Garden

The fountain-trickle
spreads across the rocks;
the spider
builds its web across the pool.
The air
is balmed by leaf and summer flower,
a jungle for a cat.

Martyr Song

We who are about to die
salute you,
but in our death God Himself
refutes you.
In this world of lie
every worldly hope may die,
but in our end is love,
only love,
a holy love.

Every human love goes wrong
for we are not very strong
but God has given us His love,
a holy love.

Love divides the light from darkness,
it divides the sea from land;
build your house upon the Rock
or collapse into the sand,
for in the end, only one thing will stand:
only love, and wholly love,
a holy love.

We who are about to die
salute you,
but in our death, God Himself
refutes you.
In this world of lie
even God Himself has died
but in His death was love,
wholly love,
a holy love.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Joss Paper

 As I continue reading A Dream of Red Mansions, one of the things that I've found interesting is the regular mention of 'sacrificial money' (in the translation I am reading). This is a very common Eastern cultural practice that is almost nonexistent in the West, so I was curious about it.

The more common name for it is 'joss paper'. It is easily burnable paper that is made to look like money, in many cases, although it can take many other forms. (Very popular examples, which can be ordered from paper offering stores, are paper 'credit cards', coins, and gold and silver ingots of paper foil, but anything luxurious that you can make a paper imitation of is fair game, and people have made joss paper clothes, cars, computers, houses, etc. Many modern jurisdictions have had to impose restrictions on how big joss paper offerings can be.) Nobody knows exactly how the practice started. It had been common in China as in many other places to bury proxy money with the dead -- i.e., replicas of money; that may be the origin of the idea. It was long thought that the practice burning imitation money grew up among the poor, who could not afford the real thing, but as historical evidence has grown, it is clear that the practice has been common among the wealthy for as long as it existed. Very likely it began among the very wealthy -- who, after all, would have had the means to order large quantities of handcrafted paper items solely to burn them -- and in the common pattern we find all the world over, the merchant class and eventually the poor copied the practice of the very wealthy as best they could. It's long been considered bad luck to destroy actual money, so it may be that people started doing it so that they could have fancy offerings that would not tempt fate. Or it may be an adaptation of a Buddhist practice imported from Persia or India. In any case, its popularity became almost universal among Buddhists and Taoists in China and Chinese-influenced cultures, and there are many temples and shrines throughout the area that are able to maintain themselves almost entirely on specialized joss paper sales.

The paper is used as a sort of incense, either in the veneration of ancestors or the worship of Taoist deities; the 'joss' in 'joss paper' indicates this function. As part of the ritual, the one offering the sacrificial money folds it and then burns it, usually at the end of another ritual. Popular accounts seem to assume that people take offering (say) a wad of imitation bills to the fire 'spiritualizes' it so that the spirits can use it in the afterlife or spirit world, but in practice I'm not sure most people see it as more than a gesture expressive of their good will and devotion, and you can also offer it in other ways, like burying it.

In any case, in A Dream of Red Mansions, the practice is portrayed as very widespread and somewhat vulgar. One of the main characters, Baoyu, criticizes it as a late practice (by which he seems to mean merely that it is later than traditional Confucian practices, since the actual use of joss paper may go back to the third century, and in legend it was one of the things invented by Cai Lun, the first inventor of a reliable papermaking process in the first or second century) and contrasts it with the superior Confucian practice of using ordinary incense in traditional rites while acting with the virtue of sincerity.

Monday, August 02, 2021

And I Have Sung These Verses for My Grave

by Karl August Georg Max, Graf von Platen-Hallermunde
translated by Reginald Bancrofte Cooke 

I was a poet born but blows to earn
Of the ill times in which my lot was cast;
But drank of fame ere yet my youth was past,
And left my impress on the speech in turn.
Ne'er in the school of art slothful to learn,
It therefore fell to me new paths to blast,
And to pour forth my soul in rhymes, to last
To distant times, if rightly I discern.

I fashioned songs from various themes, as well
As comedies and legends of the brave,
All in a style which no one could excel.
The second prize for odes to me they gave,
Life's hopes and sorrowings my sonnets tell,
And I have sung these verses for my grave.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Mystery of Piety 1.1.3&4


1.1.3 On Actuality and Potentiality in Composition

St. Bonaventure says (Itin. 5.3) that anything that is understood is understood either as nonbeing, or as potential being, or as actual being. Actuality and potentiality extend beyond cases of motion or change, for just as change may be regarded as the actuality of the potential insofar as it is potential, so too composition may be regarded as the potentiality of the actual insofar as it is actual. We find in our experience that some things are composed as wholes of parts. For instance, the human body is composed of arms, legs, torso, neck, head, and so forth. However, these parts are not just piled together; they compose a whole, which cannot just be the parts and nothing else. This raises a question of how these parts are integrated as a whole, how many make one. What binds them together? We need to trace this back to something. If A and B are united by C, which is also a part, but in such a way that A and C, and C and B are united in the same way, then we would have to find some other thing, D, that unites A and C, and another, E, that unites C and B. But, again this would follow for A and D, D and C, C and E, E and B, and so on infinitely. This gives us an infinite regress, into a greater and greater density of relation, in which everything is never united to anything else except through infinite parts, to which it is united only through infinite parts, to which it is only united through infinite parts, so on infinitely. This seems contrary to our actual experience, and would seem to require that the parts of every composite whole are somehow related to that whole like geometrical points to a line.

We can have three positions on this.

(1) One could argue that composite things are fundamentally many and only one in a secondary sense.

One could have a position in which the union that makes the composite is simply a kind of co-location within a boundary. This has the advantage that many of the common examples of composites that we consider are structured by place and arrangement. Thus we might say that the kidney is part of the body because the kidney-place, or spatial region in which the kidney is found, is within the boundary of the body-place, or spatial region in which the body is found. A problem with this is that whether something is part of a composite will be entirely relative to the boundary one chooses to identify; in practice, we pick relevant boundaries by first identifying the composite things they bound. In addition, the view seems to get its plausibility from the fact that we take larger spatial regions to be composed of smaller spatial regions; thus it treats composition of actually existing spatial regions as a sort of genus of all composition, and on this basis defining composition as a many measured by the composition of spatial regions.

One could, on the other hand, have a view in which atomistic elements are united by the mind constructing a unity for them. These elements would have to be either themselves mental, such as sense-data or atomistic perceptions, or separate from the mind, such as physical indivisibles. Neither of these are consistent with our usual experience, in which we directly feel and see composite objects, pots and not atoms, as the Nyaya philosophers says, and only infer the existence of these atomistic elements on other considerations, if at all; but for these atomistic elements to exist, what they compose must exist, because only if the composite exists could we then infer from it that atomistic elements exist. What is more, for the same reasons we take physical objects to continue to exist independently of our perceptions of them, we take them to continue to act as composite wholes independently of our mind's action.

(2) One could argue that composite things are fundamentally one and only many in a secondary sense. This, however, is inconsistent with our experience, in which we consistently find things to be divisible and decomposable.

(3) One could hold that composite things are fundamentally one and fundamentally many, just in different respects. Of this kind are broadly Aristotelian accounts, which are based on the union of the actual and the potential; as Scotus says (Oxon. 1 d5 q2 n 15), The unity of the composite is necessarily based on the actual and the potential, and as Aquinas says (CT 1.9), Any composite being must contain two factors that are related to each other as potential to actual and (SCG 1.18) In every composite there must be the actual and the potential. Something that is composite must consist of things that can be united and are actually united. It must be an actually united thing that is divisible or composable.  The potential and the actual are in a way one, for what is potential is made actual. Thus it is not necessary for there to be something else binding them together; they have as intimate a union as possible, despite also being many, For many cannot become simply one unless something in them is actual and another potential, as Aquinas says (SCG 1.18). We have no infinite regress of compositional ties, because the actual and the potential are directly unifiable, as we saw in discussing change.

This account of composition as a union of potential and actual, in which parts are potential to an actual whole, fits with how we understand the world. We treat wholes both as the same and as different from their parts, so that something composite has to be both diversified and unified. But just as recognizing change as the difference of the same required looking further and seeing it as the actual of the potential, so too does recognizing the composite whole as both one and many require recognizing it as an actual thing with a potential to a unity that is itself actual. If change is the actual of the potential insofar as it is potential, we can equally say that composition is the potential of the actual insofar as it is actual.

From this we see as well that there are relations between composition and change that we find in our actual experience of both. We take changeable things to be composite, naturally taking them to have parts that can differ. If I can by a certain process change water into hydrogen and oxygen, I infer either that water has parts that can be turned into hydrogen or oxygen by the process or that it is itself composed of hydrogen and oxygen as parts. Likewise, we take composite things to be changeable, at least in principle. Both of these follow from this account. Moreover, on this account we can recognize that there are functional parts and wholes. A physical or chemical experiment, for instance, is a composite whole in which the parts have the potential to be united in a whole with the function to determine the answers to questions about the physical world, each part being a part of the experiment because it contributes to that function of the whole in some way. We can also recognize as real some apparent cases of non-unique composition, in which the same parts are able to compose different wholes, since in these cases something that is union of the actual and the potential may be itself potential to another actual whole. Moreover, we can use this account to understand things that are composite wholes not in a strict sense but a loose sense (such as parts not yet assembled or compressible patterns) with reference to the actuality to which the parts are potential, but which they do not have, as well as more figurative notions of composition, such as mereological fusions or constructed unities or the sense in which one's parents are part of oneself, in which a separate actuality (such as a mental act of thinking together) can be treated 'as if' it were the actual whole to which other things were parts.

If we take composition to be a union of actual and potential, then it follows that everything composite is derivative and caused.  This is obvious from the link between composition and change; composites are such as to begin to exist or cease to exist in some way, depending on whether the potential of the parts as parts is actualized or not, which must be from something other than that very potential. We recognize that composite things are usually 'put together'; as Aquinas says (CT 1.9), Something has to exist prior to any composite, since composing elements are by their very nature antecedent to a composite. Even if a composite is assumed to exist always, the potential of the parts to be a whole must be actual due to something actual.

As noted previously, what is already a union of the actual and potential can itself be potential to the actuality of some more inclusive whole. This means that there is a sort of hierarchy of composition, and many kinds of composition, some more fundamental than others. It is not necessary to consider these exhaustively, but some are particularly notable. The kind of composition with which we are most familiar is a quantitative composition, in which physical bodies are united to physical bodies in a larger physical whole. As physical bodies are changeable, though, there must be some potential capable of enduring through the changes and actualities that are united to this prior to and posterior to the change. This union of actual and potential is traditionally called hylomorphic composition, or composition of matter (the enduring potential, hyle) and form (the different actual, morphe). Thus a tree has quantitative parts which can be determined by identifying the ways it can be divided according to quantity; but more fundamental than this is the physical being of the tree itself, in which its parts compose a living thing that has quantitative divisibility as merely one of its characteristics. When we compare hylomorphic composites to other hylomorphic composites, however, we recognize that they are often in some way both the same and different. Thus, for instance, oak and elm are in some way the same and in some way different, as are diamond and graphite. Because of this we recognize that form and matter can be understand more generically and more specifically, in which the more general is treated as something potential to an actual difference that makes it more specific. This gives us specific composition, which hylomorphic composition presupposes, since the nature of the matter and form and their union depend on the genus and difference. As Aquinas says (CT 1.12), Since genus potentially contains specific differences, in every being composed of genus and differences, act is commingled with potency. However, this is not the most fundamental composition, since we can recognize  in all of the these compositions that there is something potential, the essence (essentia) or what a thing is able to be, its intrinsic potential to be, and something actual, its actual being, its 'to be' (esse). This composition of essence and actual being is thus the most fundamental composition, on which all others depend. This composition has to differ from composition of matter and form, because the thing that actually is, is the whole thing, not merely the form or matter. It has to differ from composition of genus and difference for a similar reason.

Thus we can recognize, as a sort of limit of composition, the composition of essence and actual being. It also fits well with our ways of speaking and thinking about being. We obviously can distinguish, as far as our knowledge goes, 'what a thing is' and 'whether/that a thing is'. We can consider things about what a thing would have to be without knowing whether it actually is, and we can discover that a thing is without directly knowing what it is, and we can ask about them separately. This is the first basis for taking beings to combine in some way their 'whatness' and their 'thatness'; as St. Thomas says (CT 1.11), In virtue of a thing's actual being, we say that it is, and in virtue of its essence, we say what it is. But there is more to this, as we can think of the essence as a capability for being a certain way that can actually be; that is, essence and actual being are both quite clearly not non-being, so either they are both actual, which seems to require that they be simply the same, since it's absurd to say that a thing's 'whatness' is a thing existing distinctly from its own existence, or they are related in such a way that one is potential and the other actual. What is not its own essence is disposed to its essence, by something of itself, as potential to actual, as Aquinas says (SCG 1.21).

If we look at the matter this way, it is clear that at least most things cannot have an essence and actual being that are the same. Considering the matter in the abstract, essences may have parts, but what is not part of the essence itself has to be extrinsic to the essence as such and cannot be united to it without composition. It is clear that actual being is not always a part of essence; we do not find that what a thing is usually includes as one of its components, distinct from the rest, its actual being, so that everything actually is just from what it is. We could indeed hold that there is something whose essence or whatness is actual being. In such a case, for it not to be would contradict its nature. It is clear that this is not the case with most of the things we know. But in any case, any such thing would have to be unique, because we could only get diverse instances by adding something to the essence to actualize its potential for diversity.  If essence were not composed with actual being, then felinity (the essence) would be a cat (which actually is) and a cat would itself be felinity, which we do not find. Thus, as Aquinas says (SCG 1.21), There must be composition in every being that is not its essence or whatness.

From the composition of essence and actual beings in some things, however, we can conclude that there must be some being in which essence is not a potential to be but the actual being itself, and thus the actual being is not actualizing a potential but simply subsists on its own.

(1) What is appropriate to a thing is so either because it is due to the principles of its nature or imposed by a source extrinsic to it. Either something belongs to a thing due to that thing's nature, as when a star gives off light, or to something else, as when light is reflecting off of the sea. If we find a feature in something, either it has it in its own right or from something else. This does not cease to be true if we are talking about actual being; something that actually is must either do so essentially or from another.

(2) Actual being itself, however, cannot be due to the essence when the two are not simply the same. Such an essence would then be making itself actually to be, which is impossible, because its giving actual being to itself would have to be logically prior to its having actual being in order to give it.

From this we can recognize that wherever actual being is not the essence, it must have its actual being from another. 

(3) But what actually is because of another must be traced back to something that actually is in and through itself. That other must actually be. Either it actually is by nature or from something else. However, we cannot have an infinite regress. Anything that is not actual being in itself has a cause of its actual being, and this includes the whole of any series of things receive actual being from something else. But if nothing actually is in and through itself, that is, essentially, then such a series will have actual being both from itself and from another, which is a contradiction.

(4) Therefore there must be something whose essence is itself actual being, which as such gives actual being to other things. Or, in other words, since whatever is from another can be traced back to what actually is just in itself, such that its essence is not potential to anything but simply actual in its own right, it follows hat there must be some cause, which is actual being in itself, from which other things receive actual being. This makes sense. To be caused by another does not appertain to a being inasmuch as it is being; otherwise, every being would be caused by another, so that we should have to proceed to infinity in causes—an impossibility. Therefore, no caused being is essentially its own actual being and that being which is subsisting must be uncaused, not receiving its actual being from another. 

We can put the same point in a slightly different way, since to receive one's actual being from another is to be a dependent being.

 (1) Some being is dependent. Our experience of the world clearly indicates this dependency, because some beings are produced or made.

(2)  Every dependent being depends on some being that is not dependent on itself

(a) For it cannot be dependent on nothing, for nothing is not something on which other things can depend.

(b) It cannot be dependent solely on itself, because then its reception of actual being from itself would logically precede its having actual being in order to give any actual being. 

(c) It cannot be dependent on something dependent on itself, for the same reason.

 Therefore what has dependent being must depend on something other than itself, or, as we might say, what is dependent, depends on another.

(3) It is impossible for all that actually is to be dependent in its being. If the whole collection of things were dependent, the collection itself would have to be dependent, and would therefore have to depend on something else. But then it would not be all that actually is, taken collectively, which is contrary to the supposition.

(4) Therefore there must actually be some independent being, some being whose being does not depend on anything else. And this is, by a slightly different path, the same result as the former, for whenever a thing's actual being is composed with its essence, its actual being would have to derive either from the principles of its essence or from an external cause. In such a case, however, a thing's actual being cannot be due to the intrinsic principle of its essence, because this would make the thing self-caused; so anything composed of actual being and essence must depend on something else. This is impossible in the case of independent being.

 We may put the matter another way, in terms of efficient causes. An efficient cause is a source of being. Aristotle, beginning from change, first conceived a general account of sources of change, which are later called motive causes (also 'motor causes' or 'moving causes'); every change requires some exernal active source. However, later Aristotelian philosophers, considering situations very different from those considered by Aristotle himself, found that they could not assume that all source-causes were specifically causes of change. Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, beginning from considerations of being rather than change, proposed an account that, while in the spirit of Aristotle's, included sources of existence as well as of change, a making cause or productive cause, and this emendation was widely accepted. The term 'efficient cause' can be used broadly for all extrinsic source-causes, in which it includes motive causes as one species, or more narrowly, in which it is specifically a source of existence itself. If we use the term in the latter sense, we can reformulate the above lines of reasoning in a different way, using efficient causes, since the effects of such causes will be dependent on their causes for their actual being.

(1) There are things that actually are because they are effects. We know by experience that some things are made to be by other things.

We find as well that there are chains or series of such efficient causes. But we can distinguish two kinds of series of source-causes in general. In one, the elements of the series are related in such a way that A causes B to cause C; this is known as a per se series or an essentially ordered series. In others, the elements of the series are related in such a way that A causes B and B causes C, but A's causing B and B's causing C are only incidentally related; this is called a per accidens series or an accidentally ordered series. ('Accidental' here indicates not 'by chance' but 'incidental'.) For instance, I may make something in such a way that because of my act of making it, it makes something else, which is per se; or I may make something and as it wends its course through the world it happens also to make something else, which is per accidens.

(2) Effects cannot be the causes of themselves. Something is able to be an effect; therefore it is either from itself or by nothing or by something other than itself. It cannot be from nothing, because nothing is caused by nothing. It cannot be from itself, because nothing makes itself. Therefore, it can only be from another. 

(3) An infinite regress in a per se series of efficient causes is impossible. In all ordered efficient causes, the first is cause of any intermediates, whether one or many, and the intermediate is cause of the last; it is the first cause that gives the character of the whole series. Thus if we have no first cause, intermediates cannot be causes. If, however, there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first, and thus none intermediate, and thus none last from a series of intermediating causes.*

We may put this a slightly different way. In essentially ordered causes, each cause depends for its being and its being a cause on a prior cause. If causes regressed infinitely in such an ordering, every cause would be a caused cause. But a series of caused causes is itself a caused cause. Therefore we can take the whole series of caused causes and ask what is its cause. Thus either the whole series of caused causes is both caused and uncaused, which is a contradiction, or there is a cause outside the series of which the series is an effect. And as Scotus says (Op. Ox. 1 d2 q1), Even if the group of beings caused were infinite, they would still depend upon something outside the group

There can be no circular regress of causes for the same reasons, since a circular regress is just a variety of infinite regress. Moreover, as Turretin says (Inst. 3.1.6), "it would follow that the same thing was made by itself and was the cause (mediately at least) of itself."

In a per accidens series of causes, this problem does not arise, and nothing about the series itself prevents there being an infinite series of causes related per accidens. Nonetheless, as Scotus argues (Op. Ox. 1 d2 q1), an infinite series of per accidens causes seems to require some cause or causes outside the series to maintain it, For no change of form is perpetuated save in virtue of something permanent which is not a part of the succession. Thus an accidentally ordered series of efficient causes seems to imply a per se series of efficient causes, and thus a first efficient cause outside the series, an independent being on which the being of the series depends. This is not surprising, because, as Aquinas says (PN), everything that is per accidens is traced back to what is per se.

(4) Therefore a first efficient cause must actually be. To be first, such an efficient cause or maker cannot be an effect; indeed, it necessarily exists without an efficient cause, truly independent being having actual being without receiving it from another.

We have determined, then, that there must be a first being, independent being, being that actually is by essence, that causes other things to be. There must be, in other words, some uncaused cause or unmade maker that by its very essence actually is.

All of these routes are possible because of composition understood as union of actual and potential. They take the form of recognizing that there are composite things; but composite things require causes; in the most fundamental composition, there can be no infinite regress; and therefore there must be something that is not composite even in terms of the most fundamental composition. This noncompositeness is more commonly called simplicity. Anything that is not simple must have an efficient cause that composes it, since composition requires actualized potential. The first uncaused cause must therefore be simple. As Bonaventure says (Myst. Trin. 1.1), If there is composite being, there is simple being, for what is composite does not have being of itself; it is necessary therefore that it take its origin from something that is simple. Since essence and actual being is the most fundamental composition, by considering various other compositions that are excluded by its exclusion, we learn from this a number of other things.

(a) A first uncaused cause or independent being cannot be a body, since all bodies have quantitative parts. A simple being must therefore be immaterial.

(b) A first uncaused cause cannot be changeable, since change requires composition of matter and form. A simple being must therefore be immutable.

(c) A first uncaused cause cannot be defined, since we define the natures of things according to specific composition. A simple being must therefore be indefinable. Since demonstrations propter quid are based on real definitions, it is therefore not possible to have demonstration propter quid with regard to anything attributable to its nature.

An indivisible and noncomposite cause of existence, particularly if it is also immaterial, immutable, and indefinable, is clearly something that people regard as divine, so it is not surprising to find that God is characterized as simple. As Irenaeus says of God in contrasting the Gnostic view with orthodox views (Adv. Haer. 2.13), He is a simple, uncompounded Being, without diverse members, and altogether like, and equal to himself, and many others say similar things. Both the Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council explicitly characterize God as simple in this way, and we find at the heart of God's message to the Jews (Dt 6:4), Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one, but the oneness of God has been taken not to be a mere matter of counting, but a claim of his supereminence in unity, which requires simplicity.

A few people have attempted to argue that simplicity is unbefitting to God on the ground that it conflicts with other things befitting to God, such as freedom. This will be more fully considered later. However, all such objections seem to make at least one of two errors. (1) They err by taking simplicity to imply that all attributions to something noncomposite must be synonymous and interchangeable. This is simply false. Some such attributions will be relative and depend for their meaning on reference to other things, as when we say God is creator of the world; in other cases, the reasons for the attributions, on which our understanding of them is based, will differ, as when we have different reasons for saying God is incorporeal and God is wise. (2) Or they err by taking simplicity to imply a kind of inactivity. As we have seen, this cannot be true, since we attribute simplicity to what, being wholly actual, does not admit of a union of actual and potential. Activity, however, is just something being actual in, through, or to something, and therefore is just actuality with a particular note of relation; that is, something is active by being not merely actual in itself but actual in such a way that its actuality is expressed in, through, or to something. Thus what is noncomposite, so that it actually is by its very essence, may be said to be essentially able to be active.

It was noted above that a simple thing must be immutable. It is also true that anything immutable must also be simple. As a composite must be united as act and potency, nothing immutable can be composite, because it is purely actual. Thus a first mover must be simple as well as immutable, and a first maker immutable as well as simple.

1.1.4  On the Actual Ability to Be

We know by experience that many things have actual being. There are only three possible situations, given this. Either all these things are without beginning and without end, or all of them have beginning and end, or some are with and some without beginning and end. The first is inconsistent with our experience, in which things come to be and cease to be. These things may be said to have limited being or a limited ability to be. Everything that is, is such as it is able to be, given both itself and other things, but in this sense, things that originate and perish are limited in their ability to be, precisely because they are also able not to be. In particular, their actuality is limited by their potential for being and non-being alike; as St. Thomas says (SCG 2.55), All things that begin and cease to be have the same potential to either, for the same potential is to being and not being. Their potentiality makes it so that they have a real possibility of nonbeing.

Many of the things we know, then, have a limited ability to be. This naturally raises the question of whether there are beings such that they have an unlimited ability to be, which would therefore require us to say that they have no such real possibility of nonbeing and that they therefore would be without beginning or ending. We can argue this matter from the fact that there are things with limited ability to be, as follows.

(1) We find in the world things that can be or not be, and thus have a limited ability to be. If something can be or not be, as when they begin to be and cease to be, then their ability to be is limited by their ability not to be; being related to being and nonbeing as contraries, they have potential to both.

(2) What has a limited ability to be requires a cause. Since something with a limited ability to be does not always have actual being, there must be something that makes it to be, or, as St Thomas puts it (SCG 1.15), Since in itself it is equally related to two things (namely, being and not being), it follows that if it acquires being this is the result of some cause, and again (SCG 2.15), Everything that is possible to be and not to be has a cause, because considered in itself it is indifferent to either, so that there must be something else that determines it to one. That is to say, because it has a potentiality that admits of both being and nonbeing, there must be some cause that activates its potential for being. If something is such that it actually is able to be in the sense that we have previously noted, but does not have an unlimited ability to be, then it must either at some point begin to be or else never be; so if it is, it must have a cause.

(3) We cannot, however, have an infinite regress of causes with a limited ability to be. Since a cause cannot cause unless it exists, if the cause of something with a limited ability to be is such that it itself has a limited ability to be, then its causing depends on itself being caused to be. If the series of causes is extended, and all have a limited ability to be, then the whole series has a limited ability to be, and therefore could not be or cause without some other cause.

There must, then, be something that has an unlimited ability to be. As Maimonides says (Guide 2.1), "Since there are undoubtedly beings of a temporary existence, there must also be an eternal being that is not subject to destruction, and whose existence is real, not merely possible." To take a very different figure, Locke argues (Essay 4.10), "There is no truth more evident than that SOMETHING must be FROM ETERNITY. I never yet heard of any one so unreasonable, or that could suppose so manifest a contradiction, as a time wherein there was perfectly nothing. This being of all absurdities the greatest, to imagine that pure nothing, the perfect negation and absence of all beings, should ever produce any real existence." A similar claim is made by Émilie du Châtelet in her Institutions of Physics (ch. 2). And, indeed, one finds that this has been commonly held, since it is appropriate to reason to trace that which has only limited ability to be to that which has unlimited ability to be. For instance, some have said that the universe or world as such is ingenerable and incorruptible, which would require that it have an unlimited ability to be. Others have attributed to forms, or forces, or laws of nature this same limitlessness. Likewise, people have at various times attributed such an unlimited ability to be to angels or intelligences or demiurges, or to certain kinds of  incorruptible bodies. All of these are considerations of the same general kind, attempting to identify something with an unlimited ability to be such that things with a limited ability to be can be appropriately explained.

(4) If something has an unlimited ability to be, this must be due to what is in the nature of the thing or in a cause beyond it. Or in Voltaire's words in the Treatise on Metaphysics (ch. 2), "what is, either is by itself or has received being from another." Everything that is such that it can be or not be, needs something else to make it be, for, as far as itself is concerned, it is open to both alternatives. But that which causes another thing is in that way prior to it. Hence something exists prior to what is generable or corruptible since there are some things that, not being able not to exist, because they always are, but have a cause of this necessity of being, there must be a cause prior to them, first of all, having no cause of its necessity.

(5) If something has an unlimited ability to be from a cause beyond it, there cannot be an infinite regress of such causes. Anything that has an unlimited ability to be must be so either from its own nature or from some causal condition cooperating with it in the right way. If something that actually is neither begins to be nor ceases to be due to some cause, it always exists as an effect. Its cause must also have an unlimited ability to be, for the cause to be commensurate with the effect. If it is unlimited in this way by nature, we have reached the end. Aquinas attributes this view to Avicenna (DQ de Pot. 5.3). If, however, it itself only has an unlimited ability to be as an effect of a prior cause, we can see that there is no possibility of infinite regress in efficient causes, for reasons we have already noted; if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first, and thus none intermediate, and thus none last from a series of intermediating causes; and either the whole series of caused causes is both caused and uncaused, which is a contradiction, or there is a cause outside the series of which the series is an effect. We can also say with Voltaire (Treatise on Metaphysics, ch. 2), "Taken all together, they have no external cause for their existence; taken each particularly, they have no internal: that is to say, taken all together, they owe their existence to nothing; taken each particularly, none exist by themselves; therefore necessarily none can exist." The regress must therefore come to a stop. As Maimonides pus it (Guide 2.1), "It is therefore certain that there must be a being which has absolutely independent existence, and is the source of the existence of all things, whether transient or permanent, if, as Aristotle assumes, there is in existence such a thing, which is the effect of an eternal cause, and must therefore itself be eternal." And Aquinas attributes this view to Averroes (DQ de Pot. 5.3).

(6) Thus we must conclude that there is something that naturally and of itself has unlimited ability to be. Whether we conclude immediately to it (with Avicenna) or by a regress (with Averroes), we reach the same point, something that has in and through itself an unlimited ability to be. Even if you take this to be the universe, as pantheists do, it is clear that something that naturally has an unlimited ability to be must actually be.

Whatever has an unlimited ability to be must be everlasting (or sempiternal) and eternal. The terms can be and often are used as equivalents, but by everlasting, we mean here that it does not cease to be, and by eternal, we mean that it is not properly measurable by temporal succession. In Boethius's famous definition (Cons. Phil. 5 pr. 6), Eternity is the at-once whole and complete possession of interminable life, or, in Anselm's version (Mon. 24), eternity apparently is an interminable life, existing at once as a complete whole. The two are related in that what is everlasting or interminable by nature is eternal, since we say of something that has something not by cause but by its very nature that it has it at once whole and complete in its nature. It is clear that anything that has an unlimited ability to be must be everlasting, because it does not begin to be or cease to be. We have seen that this is something that can be true of something by nature or from a cause. What has unlimited ability to be by nature, however, must be such that it is wholly actual, since it is potentiality that limits the ability to be by giving it a reference to nonbeing as well as to being. There is no succession without potentiality, however, since succession requires that something be potential to something that comes after. Thus what has unlimited ability to be must be both everlasting and eternal. As Maimonides says (Guide 2.1), "Since there are undoubtedly beings of a temporary existence, there must also be an eternal being that is not subject to destruction, and whose existence is real, not merely possible."

It is not difficult to see that people take eternity as a mark of the divine. As St. Bernard says (Cons. 5.6), What is God? He for whom ages have neither come nor gone, and yet with whom they are not co-eternal. The prophet Isaiah (57:15) calls God the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; the Psalmist says (90:2), Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God and also (103:17), the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. We find eternity attributed to God by both the Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council, as well. Nor is this all, for the association is quite common. We see it yet again in the arguments of Locke, Voltaire, and Émilie du Châtelet found in passages above. The Sri Guru Granth calls God "deathless, birthless, self-existent" (p. 1), and the eternity of God is recognized in Islamic philosophy. Thus we find that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, rationalists, skeptics, and empiricists, have all tended to associate eternity with the divine, confirming what Boethius says (Cons. Phil. 5 pr. 6), this word carries with it a revelation alike of the divine nature and the divine knowledge. A few people have attempted to argue that eternity is not a God-befitting attribute because what is not temporal cannot respond to what is temporal, but this always seems to make at least one of two errors: (1) failing to recognize that eternity is not inert because it is attributed to God due to His fullness of actuality, and (2) failing to recognize that, as the eternal would be a precondition for what is temporal it would have a greater, not a lesser, scope of action and response. We should recognize rather that it is more plausible to say that the divine eternity is the patience of God, as His immutability is His strength.

We have previously seen that what is immutable is simple and what is most properly simple is immutable. Both immutability and simplicity imply eternity, and eternity implies both immutability and simplicity. As St. Anselm says (Mon. 24), It is also evident that this supreme Substance is without beginning and without end; that it has neither past, nor future, nor the temporal, that is, transient present in which we live; since its age, or eternity, which is nothing else than itself, is immutable and without parts. Everything that begins to be or ceases to be does so through some change, which is the act of another; but an immutable first mover therefore cannot begin to be or cease to be, and is everlasting; what is more, it is so by nature and therefore eternal. One can also only have succession where there is some kind of change, so the immutable must be eternal. This is only to be expected, since something is measured as being temporal when we use a change, which serves as a clock, to measure another change; but the immutable is not a change and therefore cannot be clocked. A first mover, then, will also be eternal. Likewise, what is most properly simple has no composition of essence and actual being; but such a thing, which actually is by its very essence, cannot fail to be. Thus it must be everlasting. As noted previously, however, what is everlasting by nature is eternal. So a simple uncaused cause will also be eternal. Further, eternity implies both immutability and simplicity, for to be eternal is to have by nature the whole of one's actual being, thus not having the potential that both change and composition require.

We have thus seen that, whether one proceeds in terms of change, or of composition, or of ability to be, one arrives at the conclusion that there must be something that is wholly actual and not potential. This we call pure act (actus purus). What is purely actual so that it is immutable, simple, eternal cause, whether of change, or of composition, or of the ability to be, is certainly not the universe itself, since the universe is neither immutable nor simple nor (when we consider the matter closely) eternal. But pure act is without doubt something that people would call divine. Therefore, we have shown that something divine exists.

There is more that might be said, however, about the demonstration of God's existence, and more that we will say.


* Cp. Caleb Cohoe, "There Must Be a First: Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered Causal Series", British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol 21, No 5 (2013): 838-856.